Chris Fisher (“The Blind Turner”) Demo Review – Sunday 17th July 2022

Chris gave a masterclass in colouring and finishing techniques on a turned bowl. There was a lot of banter, so we all had an entertaining as well as an informative demonstration. The aim was to produce a coloured bowl with a gilded and textured rim and foot.

For the demonstration, Chris used a sycamore bowl blank, 175-200mm diameter, 50mm deep, but any size bowl blank could be used.

Chris showed us the Speed Sizer which he developed in collaboration with Axminster tools. The Speed Sizer is a simple tool that helps mark the tenon or recess diameter on the turning blank corresponding to any of the Axminster jaws; the tool might also help with other chuck manufacturers.

Speed Sizer

The blank was mounted using a faceplate. Chris uses Hinge-Tite screws as he finds the double thread on the screw to give a robust fixing; safety is essential. Chris created a reasonably deep and wide foot, with the recess for the jaws, and shaped the outside of the bowl. The outer rim of the bowl was shaped “square” ready for texturing and colouring.

Bowl base with a foot and jaw recess and the outside shaped with a deep rim

The outside and base were then sanded to 400 grit. Chris sanded with a paste consisting of 90% beeswax and 10% mineral and lavender oil. The paste reduces the amount of dust and the “dust slurry” works its way into the grain of the wood for a better finish. Take care not to damage the recess during the sanding.

The inside of the base recess was then textured using a (Crown) spiralling tool and lightly sanded using NyWeb.

Spiralled texture on the inner base

The next step is to texture the foot. Chris showed us how to create a texture using a Tacklife reciprocating (percussive) engraver; alternatives are Aldi and Lidl engravers (clones of the Tacklife model), or Dremel engraver. The engraver is not a rotary tool so it safer for Chris to use for detailed work. The tool action compresses the fibres rather than cuts. The aim is to create a texture which, when gilded, will produce an aged metallic appearance. Use the tool as if you were doodling with small circular motions. Then lightly sand with NyWeb.

Texturing with an engraver

Chris then did further texturing with a rotary tool and a ball burr to create small dimples (which can be seen in the later photos). The bowl was then coated in sanding sealer.

To prepare for the colouring of the outside and inner base recess of the bowl, the bowl needs to be given a foundation of black stain. Chris was going to do this with an airgun and Chestnut spirit stains, but there was a technical issue with the airgun. So instead Chris coated the bowl with Hampshire Sheen intrinsic black water-based stain. This was applied mostly with paper towel, but also with a brush to get the stain into the textured parts. The outside of the bowl was then sanded back using 240grit to reveal much of the wood but leaving patches of black in the grain. The black patches will be seen to enhance the colouring by creating shadows and shades to the applied colours.

Black stain foundation for the base

Chris was now ready to do the main colouring. Chris used a colour palette of Hampshire Sheen Intrinsic Colours in the shades of Forest Green, Ruby and Straw. After applying the green and ruby colours in patches using paper towels, Chris sanded back some areas in order to apply a white stain. The white didn’t quite work out, so he sanded back again and applied the straw stain. The intrinsic white is not quite the same as the other colour stain; it has a chalky texture and is generally used to make the colours more pastel-like. More sanding sealer was applied and the bowl was lightly sanded with NyWeb. The coloured area was then waxed using Hampshire Sheen (High) Gloss Finishing Wax.

Outside of bowl coloured, before and after sealing and waxing

To colour the rim, Chris used ChromaCraft ChromaGilt Viking Silver, a product developed by Nick Agar. It is polymer based so will be less likely to wear than the wax-based gilt products such as the Chestnut and Hampshire Sheen. The gilt is applied by rubbing the paste between the fingers (wear gloves!) and rub all over the rim, carefully rubbing into the textured detail. Allow some of the black to show through as this enhances the effect. The foot is also gilded in the same way. Clean up any gilding on the coloured area using cotton buds and paper towel. The bowl can be sealed with a lacquer if required, but Chris left it waxed and polished.

Gilded rim, clean up using cotton buds and paper towel

The bowl was then mounted on a chuck using the recess in the foot. The bowl face is cleaned up using a bowl gouge, and the width of the rim is marked using a parting tool. The bowl is then hollowed out. As well as a bowl gouge, Chris used a custom made carbide tipped tool with engraved markings on the bar which can be used as a depth gauge.

Hollowed bowl with a wide rim for colouring

At this point Chris dropped a few celebrity names that he had met. It was wasted on me though, as I didn’t know who any of them were. I did know of Sarah Moore from Money for Nothing, a BBC show that will feature Chris in the Autumn (2022). We were also told about the time Bamber (guide dog) allegedly ate a tray of flapjack; seriously Chris, do you really think you can get away with blaming Bamber for the disappearance of a tray of flapjacks!

Bamber – “he’s not telling the flapjack story again is he?”

Getting back to the bowl. The inside is sanded to 400 grit with the wax paste. The inner rim is textured to match the earlier texturing. Then a light sanding with NyWeb. The inside of the bowl is blackened as before and sanded back with 240grit and then sanded to 400grit. The area is then coloured as before with Forest Green, Ruby and Straw. Sanding sealer is then applied followed by the Hampshire Sheen High Gloss wax. Gilt is then applied to the inner rim as before. The bowl is complete!

Textured and coloured inside
Completed Bowl
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